Weight loss: Are you ready? Permanent weight loss requires commitment. See if you're ready to start a weight-loss program.
Weight loss demands focus plus mental and physical energy. So if you want to succeed, you need to prepare yourself. Part of that preparation is determining whether now is the right time to start your weight-loss program.
"Weight loss is challenging, and it requires a commitment, as many people who have tried know very well," says Donald Hensrud, M.D., a preventive medicine and nutrition specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. "But if there is another factor present, such as stress, lack of time or a physical ailment or condition that limits physical activity, it can make the challenge of weight loss even more difficult."
Your weight-loss success depends on your readiness to take on this challenge. These questions can help you judge whether you're ready to lose weight:
Are you motivated to make long-term lifestyle changes that require eating healthy foods and exercising more? Be honest. Knowing you need to make changes in your life and feeling up to the challenge are two different things. Successful weight loss depends on your willingness to take action.
Do you currently have distractions in your life that may prevent you from committing to your weight-loss program? You may set yourself up for failure if you're distracted by other major events in your life, such as marital problems, job stress or financial worries. Give your life a chance to calm down before you start. Making the lifestyle changes necessary to achieve and maintain a healthy weight must be among your highest priorities.
Do you truly believe that slower is better? Losing weight at a relatively slow pace has proved safe, healthy and effective over the long term. You want to aim for a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week. That may seem agonizingly slow in our instant-gratification society. But if you make improving your health a long-term goal of your weight-loss program, speed won't matter.
Are you realistic about your weight-loss goal? Remember, losing as little as 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight can reap health rewards if you're overweight or obese.
Start small. Work on losing 4 to 8 pounds a month. Ask your doctor how much weight you can safely lose. Do you have family and friends to support your weight-loss efforts? It certainly helps to have someone in your corner. In fact, the more the merrier. If you don't have someone you can rely on, consider joining a weight-loss support group.
Do you believe that you can change your eating habits? Sounds easy to do in theory, but in practice, it can be difficult. It's hard to cast aside established behaviors.
Are you willing to become more physically active? Increasing your level of physical activity is essential to losing weight and keeping it off. You'll also feel better and have more energy.
Do you have time to keep records of your food intake and physical activity? Keeping records increases your chance of success. Although this takes time at first, the effort required decreases as you adopt healthier habits. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how helpful it is to track your progress.
Are you willing to look at past successes and failures in weight loss and other areas of your life? Changing behavior isn't easy. It takes time and effort. You'll run into barriers on your path to success. But be optimistic. Learn from the past about what motivates you. Keep working to resolve barriers that might prevent success.
Do you view a healthy-weight program as a positive experience? Lose weight because you want to and not because you think it's expected. You'll quickly appreciate the benefits that come from weight loss. Have you resolved any eating disorders or other emotional issues that make it difficult for you to achieve a healthy weight? If you have a tendency to binge, purge, starve or overexert when you exercise, or if you're depressed or anxious, you may need professional help.
Do you believe that a healthy weight is a lifelong commitment? Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong process. There's no going back to your old behaviors. Are you ready to make a permanent change?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, you're ready to make the lifestyle changes necessary for permanent weight loss.
If you answered no to one or more of these questions, you may not be ready. And that's OK. Explore what's holding you back and face those obstacles. In some cases it may be a simple matter of timing. For instance, you may need to resolve other problems in your life. In other cases, you may need to work on related issues — such as your feelings toward weight loss or your willingness to commit to permanent changes.
You may be able to make these changes alone, or you may need the help of a doctor or dietitian. "Educating yourself about the process of successful weight loss and maintenance is a start," says Dr. Hensrud. For example, learn more about the dietary changes necessary for losing weight. Or enroll in a behavioral-based program — a program that can help you change the behaviors that can interfere with weight loss, such as eating when you're stressed or bored.
If you're ready for weight loss but fear you'll become discouraged quickly, think toward the future. "As you become more physically active and make dietary changes," says Dr. Hensrud, "you'll feel better and have more energy." And rather than thinking of weight loss as a short-term drudgery, view it as an enjoyable lifestyle change that persists indefinitely.
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